For corn acres, Hula tweaks nitrogen a bit from year to year and field to field, but his basic program consists of injecting 60 pounds per acre of liquid nitrogen as a starter fertilizer, applied two inches beside and three inches below the seed row. To give corn plants an added boost, they apply 1-18-18, or a similar formulation at planting.

When corn is at the four leaf stage, they apply about a pound of nitrogen per acre for every bushel of yield they hope to harvest from the field. Often, in higher producing soils, that means side-dressing twice.

 

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Hula, who has competed in National Corn Growers Association yield competitions since the late 1990s also looks for new technology to bolster yields. His record breaking 2011 crop included two products, Bio-Forge and X-Tra Power from Stoller Chemical Company to stimulate root growth.

Heiniger has tested the Stoller products as well and says they may have a place in high yielding corn efforts. In the Northeast Ag Expo tests, or the Hula 400 tests, these products were not part of the project.

One thing the North Carolina State research team did try was a radical theory of defoliating corn plants from the tassle to the ear leaf. The idea, Heiniger says, is to get more sunlight to the plant at the ear leaf level and drive photosynthesis. The basic idea is to get more sugar from the ear leaf to the kernel, he says.

In addition to looking odd, the procedure had an adverse effect on yield. “It did give us some important information on the value of photosynthesis to high yielding corn, but in fact this treatment yielded about 40 bushels per acre less than the check plots in the test.

Combined, all the tests we did at the Northeast Ag Expo last year demonstrates the capability North Carolina corn growers have to grow high yielding crops. We did everything right in all the tests, even the check plots, and as a result most of the corn grown there was in the 300 bushel per acre range, Heiniger says.

Even with high input costs in the $490 per acre range, corn at current prices and yields of 300 bushels per acre can mean big money for our farmers,” he adds.

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